Cadet makes memories in Hong Kong
Western Bay teen goes on cadet exchange to Asia
Western Bay’s Chelsea Walsh is one of four Canadian cadets who had the opportunity to travel to Hong Kong this summer. The 17-year-old took part in a ceremony to honour Canadians who died defending the former British colony. It’s a trip the 17-year-old won’t soon forget.
It was the surprise of a lifetime for 17-year-old Chelsea Walsh when she received a call telling her she was going to Hong Kong.
The Carbonear Collegiate student is a member of the 295 Baccalieu Sea Cadet Corps out of Old Perlican. The call came from commanding officer Lt.-Cmdr. Cliff Morgan.
“When I answered the call, Mr. Morgan asked me to sit down,” Chelsea laughed. “I thought I got staff (at camp). But then he told me that I got picked for an exchange.”
Much to her surprise, she learned she would be one of four Canadian cadets flying overseas to Hong Kong — two from British Columbia and one from Quebec also attended. It’s one of the most exclusive trips a young sea cadet can participate in. An officer from British Columbia was also in attendance.
Hong Kong wasn’t her first choice. In fact, it wasn’t her second. Chelsea had applied to Japan and Australia, but thought she’d take the chance to apply for Hong Kong. She didn’t think she would get it.
It was a couple of days before the Western Bay residents was able to share her news, since Morgan wanted to share it with the corps first. But when she could tell everyone she was so excited. But as the day to leave came closer she began to get more nervous.
It all went away once she hopped on a plane to Vancouver for the first leg of her journey on July 27.
After a couple nights touring the most western province in Canada, they set off for Hong Kong, three days earlier than corps from other countries.
The trip was not just about an exchange for cadets, but also to learn about other cultures of the world. One of the biggest changes going from Canada to Hong Kong is the food. Chelsea got used to it quickly.
“There were ducks and chickens hanging in the windows of stores,” she recalled. “And if you ask for water, they serve it hot.”
Although she didn’t eat everything, she did try a lot of the food she didn’t recognize. She laughed recalling the time she declined to try chicken feet when it was served to her. Since coming home, Chelsea has decided to take a break from rice and noodles, since they were served with just about every meal.
The constant smell emanating from drying fish was another new sensation for her.
“It was everywhere,” she explained.
She also learned how to haggle for goods at a local market.
“You would ask how much something was, and then walk away and say it’s too much,” Chelsea said. “Then they would chase after you and say, ‘How much will you pay?’”
Cemetery in Hong Kong
Chelsea and her corps started off their adventure without other cadets, which gave them the chance to explore on their own. Between touring, snorkel diving in the coral reef and some shopping, the first few days were busy.
But it was the day the group visited a cemetery that made one of the biggest impressions on them.
The Sai Wan War Cemetery is a military resting place for soldiers that died in the Second World War. There are 228 named Canadians who died defending Hong Kong, and Chelsea and her corps were invited to be a part of a ceremony commemorating it.
“They asked us to lay a wreath for the Canadians who fought for the Battle of Hong Kong,” she said.
Chelsea was asked to write about the experience. Her story will be published nationally by Cadets Canada in the coming months.
When the corps from all over the world finally got together, it was awkward at first, said Chelsea. But it didn’t take long for everyone to warm up to each other.
“I just screamed out, ‘selfie’ and everyone came running over,” she laughed. “They really like their selfies over there.”
Part of getting to know each other involved bringing some info about their home countries to the rest of the cadets. It was a chance for each participant to see what other places are like.
The countries that participated included Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Other group activities included a cruise, single-person canoeing, dragon boating and tours of military facilities. They learned different drills and tried on driving helmets. She even got stung by a big bug on a hike, which she laughs about now.
But one thing Chelsea will always remember about the trip is the visit to the Tian Tan Buddha.
“We visited the big Buddha,” she exclaimed. “Two hundred and sixty steps later… It was gorgeous. It’s something that I’m never going to forget.”
That goes for the whole trip in general, she added. From the moment she stepped on the flight in St. John’s, to the typhoon on the last night in Hong Kong, every memory she will treasure. She returned to Newfoundland last Wednesday.
“I just got the opportunity to go to Hong Kong, all expenses paid,” she said. “It was definitely something I will always remember.”
One of Chelsea Walsh’s (front centre) favourite memories of Hong Kong was when she called out to all the cadets to take a selfie together and they all rushed over.